Should Your Startup Hold an AMA on Reddit?

Deborah Sweeney

Posted on March 13th 2014

Should Your Startup Hold an AMA on Reddit?

ImageWhat startup doesn’t want to get on the front page of the internet?

The infamous slogan behind the website Reddit, a community content platform for registered users on all things entertainment, news, and buzzworthy, the site has increasingly become noted for its subreddit category IAmA (“I Am A”) where AMA (“Ask Me Anything”) Q&A sessions are held. Users can submit questions in to those participating in the session as well as submit their own future requests for whom they’d like to see take over the platform for the day.

Reddit’s AMAs have brought in a great deal of attention and participation from leaders in every industry across the board from President Barack Obama (notable for being the first sitting President to join in on a Reddit conversation as well as causing the site to temporarily go down during his AMA due the amount of traffic), Bill Gates, Reddit’s own CEO Yishan Wong, and Martha Stewart.

You don’t have to be in the Fortune 500 club to be a part of an AMA either – entrepreneurs like Tim Ferriss, Jeremy Stoppelman, and Colin Hodge have all joined in on getting asked anything. And as AMAs become increasingly popular within the Reddit community as well as outside of it, startups and business owners may look at the possibility of conducting one as a central part of their social media plan, right alongside their Facebook growth and company blogging schedule. But is it worth it to conduct an AMA? While I wouldn’t suggest doing any startup doing it immediately unless you experience a sudden overnight success with your business, here are a few notes to keep in mind once your business has grown substantially and garnered enough attention from the media to warrant it’s 15-30 minutes of AMA fame.

Get ready to answer everything and anything asked.

Questions sent in through Reddit are typically “upvoted” and “downvoted” depending on the nature and style of the question being asked. Those with several hundred upvotes are usually the ones users are most interested in seeing a response to. The best AMAs are the ones where the person being interviewed replies thoughtfully to as many questions as possible and even sticks around longer than scheduled to keep answering more questions. If you’re used to doing everything with your publicist holding your hand with pre-determined answers, AMAs are probably not for you. Try to answer questions directly. It’s great to have the community engage with one another during your AMA, but you should also be a part of that conversation. The longer you try to steer clear of it, the worse the light your brand is in looks.

The best AMAs answers are candid, but still teach us something.

It’s okay to be honest and open when it comes to admitting mistakes made and lessons learned with your business. It’s even better to do that, and provide some insider know-how, in as short-form an answer possible. You don’t need to write paragraph after paragraph for a response unless you have a longer anecdote to share. On her AMA, Martha Stewart was asked by a user named lyndeybrock what her top three hosting rules were. “1. Pay attention to your guests. 2. Interact with them. 3. Feed them fine food and wine.” Easily could have turned into a lengthy reply back, but the simplified bulleting system worked just as well, if not better.

This isn’t the place to plug how awesome you are.

Does this work for any brand on any platform though – to sit around and proclaim how great you are nonstop? By participating in an AMA and joining in with the conversation on Reddit, you’re unpeeling a few layers to your brand to a whole new community and potential customer base. If the only questions you answer are easy-peasy ones directly related to your products, you’re missing the point on how to connect and humanize yourself. Create an account, log in, get your verification photo and social media proof ready, promote out the fact that you’re doing an AMA ahead of time to your social media base, and take everything on as it comes! It’s highly doubtful that you’ll walk away from the experience feeling let down – the community at Reddit is smart and savvy as they get and they’ll grill you nicely on your triumphs and downfalls alike.

Deborah Sweeney

Deborah Sweeney

CEO, MyCorporation

Deborah Sweeney is the CEO of MyCorporation. MyCorporation provides online legal filing services for entrepreneurs and businesses, providing startup bundles that include corporation and LLC formation, registered agent, DBA, and trademark and copyright filing services. You can find MyCorporation on Twitter at @MyCorporation and Deborah at @deborahsweeney and on .

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Comments

Great article. I think the best approach is not to do an AMA as a start-up unless you are requested to do so by the Reddit community. It's best to be summoned upon to do an AMA, rather than to try and arrange it on your own.

If you're doing an AMA solely for the purpose of marketing your company or promoting it than it would be best not to do the AMA at all.

Great post.  I've actually noticed the startup AMA activity on Reddit is a bit thinner than say the celeb AMA's or CEO's of giant companies.

Full disclosure: I'm the founder and CEO of Yabbly.  We're primarily focused on startup related AMA's.  We're always looking for great startup hosts and recently have had folks like the former general counsel of Facebook, an early investor in Fab, a partner at Wilson Sonsini, and many others.  Feel free to check it out at www.yabbly.com or email me at tom (at) yabbly (dot) com.